The efficacy of thyroidectomy for Graves' disease: A meta-analysis

T K Palit, C C Miller, D M Miltenburg
Journal of Surgical Research 2000 May 15, 90 (2): 161-5

BACKGROUND: Surgery for Graves' disease was largely replaced in the mid-1900s by radioiodine and antithyroid drugs, due to the belief that they were more safe and effective. Since then, thyroid surgery has improved with preoperative drug therapy and modern operative techniques. Recent clinical studies of thyroidectomy for Graves' disease may not reflect outcomes accurately because of small sample size, especially when estimating ideal thyroid remnant size. The purpose of this study was to combine modern clinical trials and use meta-analysis to determine the overall efficacy of both total (TT) and subtotal thyroidectomy (ST) for Graves' disease, compare thyroid function and complications rates of TT and ST, and determine ideal thyroid remnant size.

METHODS: Meta-analysis was performed on published studies in which patients underwent either TT or ST for Graves' disease. Meta-analysis was performed by weighted least-squares linear regression. P < 0.05 was considered significant.

RESULTS: There were 35 studies comprising 7241 patients. Mean follow-up was 5.6 years. Overall, persistent or recurrent hyperthyroidism occurred in 7.2% of patients. TT was performed on 538 patients and hypothyroidism occurred in all cases. ST was performed in 6703 patients, 59.7% of whom achieved euthyroidism, 25. 6% became hypothyroid, and 7.9% had either persistent or recurrent hyperthyroidism. Permanent recurrent laryngeal nerve injury occurred in 0.9% of TT patients and 0.7% of ST patients (P = NS). Permanent hypoparathyroidism occurred in 1.6% of TT patients and 1.0% of ST patients (P = NS). There was an 8.9% decrease in hypothyroidism and 6.9% increase in euthyroidism for each gram of thyroid remnant (P < 0.0001 each).

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, thyroidectomy successfully treated hyperthyroidism in 92% of patients with Graves' disease. There were no cases of hyperthyroidism following TT. ST achieved a euthyroid state in almost 60% of patients with an 8% rate of persistent or recurrent hyperthyroidism. There was no significant difference in complication rates between TT and ST.

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